Indian Culinary Terms

Baghar (Tempering):
Spices and herbs are added one at a time to hot oil and this tempering is either done as the first step in the cooking process, before adding the vegetables for example, or as the last, pouring the tempered oil over dal. The oil extracts and retains all the sharp flavours of the rai, kadipatta, jeera, hing, etc and coats the entire dish being prepared.Also known as tadka or chonk.

Balchao (Pickling):A Goan speciality where vegetables like aubergines or seafood like prawns are “pickled” in sugar, vinegar and spices for a day or two before eating.

Bhunao (Saute/stir-fry):Small quantities of water, yogurt, and stock are introduced to the pan if and when the ingredients start to stick. Usually onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and green chillies are fried in oil, but to make sure that this doesn’t stick, burn or cook unevenly, a small amount of water is added, repeatedly. After the oil separates from the mixture, the main ingredient (meat or vegetable) is added and cooked.

In India, roasting of meat is done in tandoors, or mud ovens. As the meat cooks, its fat, and marinade dribs onto the charcoal, sending up sizzling steam that permeates the whole joint. This smoky flavour is greatly prized.

Dum Pukht cuisine in India is over 200 years old. When Nawab Asaf-ud-Daulah was building the Bara Imambara during the famine of 1784 to provide work for his starving people, huge quantities of food was cooked in large vessels, degs, in massive double-walled ovens called bukharis. He tasted the food one night and loved it so much that bukhari cooking was incorporated into the royal court.

Dhuanaar (Smoking):
Glowing charcoal is placed in a small katori, or bowl, cooked meats are placed around this. Dry spices and ghee are poured on top of the coals and a lid is quickly placed over the meat. This smoking adds a delicate flavour to the prepared meats. In Rajasthan, for example, matha or buttermilk is served after ghee is poured over hot coals and placed under a lid along with an earthenware pot of buttermilk for a minute or so.

Mullah Do-Piaza, all children in India are told, was the legendary cook at Akbar’s court. One of the navratnas , it is said he could conjour up culinary delights using only two onions. For example mutton cooked in that particular style is called Ghosht do piaza.

Dum (Steaming):
In the olden days, the utensil was sealed with atta (dough) to capture the moisture within the food as it cooked slowly over a charcoal fire. Some coal was placed on the lid to ensure even cooking. The food continued to cook in its own steam, retaining all its flavour and aroma. Dum means, “to steam” or “mature” a dish.

The cooking is done in a thick bottom pan so that the food does not stick or burn; the lid helps retain the aroma and flavour. Both bhunao and dum are aspects of Handi cooking.